In Memoriam: Robert B. Haas ’72: 1947-2021

‘If you only live once, you might as well live a few lives’

man sitting outside

Credit: Courtesy of Bobby Haas

Robert “Bobby” Haas ’72, a lawyer who made his fortune in private equity, eventually became an aerial photographer — capturing the beauty of the world from above — and a motorcycle aficionado — exploring new pathways below. He died Sept. 28.

Haas was extremely successful in the world of private equity in the ’80s. With his partner at the time, Thomas Hicks, he combined Dr Pepper and 7UP into one company and then sold it when the timing was right, making a huge profit. He remained in the private equity field for another two decades. At the same time, his success allowed him to pursue interests that became passions, from aerial photography, despite a fear of heights, to motorcycle riding and collecting.

Along the way, Haas was a strong supporter of Harvard Law School. A professorship bears his name as does the lounge in the Caspersen Student Center, where some of his aerial images hang on the wall.

Many of Haas’ photographs are collected in National Geographic books: “Through the Eyes of the Gods: An Aerial Vision of Africa” (2005), “Through the Eyes of the Condor: An Aerial Vision of Latin America” (2007), and “Through the Eyes of the Vikings: An Aerial Vision of Arctic Lands” (2010). He donated the proceeds from those volumes to charities, including ones supporting endangered species.

Haas’ interest in photography began when a colleague from Goldman Sachs suggested he visit a Kenyan game preserve. Haas went on to take many more trips and many more photos. In a feature in the Harvard Law Bulletin published in 2002, he said that it was these early trips to Africa to photograph animals that began to sharpen his “thinking about life and death and the world and what kind of contribution I can make.”

About 10 years ago, Haas immersed himself in the world of motorcycles, learning to ride (with the help of a sidecar to give him more balance) and eventually opening a museum in Texas, which now has more than 200 motorcycles. He also participated in a yearlong motorcycle ride with a group of veterans and active members of the military, as described in his book “Shakespeare and the Brothers: Embedded with a Band of Bikers” (2015).

“If you only live once,” he wrote in his book, “you might as well live a few lives.”